Zoo Lights Festival kicks off at Assiniboine Park Zoo

By: Jonas Cortez

A statue of a bison shines bright at the Zoo Lights Festival opening night./JONAS CORTEZ

Winnipeggers took in the display of lights at the opening night of Zoo Lights Festival at Assiniboine Park Zoo on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.

The festival, which took two years to plan, attracted just under 1,800 visitors on its opening night, said Debbie Hannah, Assiniboine Park Conservancy vice-president of people strategy and services.

Laura Cabak, park conservancy’s public relations manager, said although this is the festival’s first year running, she hopes it will become an annual event and a holiday tradition for Manitobans.

“Our guests will enjoy stunning light displays, great food, and shopping, plus amazing cultural, musical and artistic experiences,” said Cabak.

One of the most popular places to warm up, besides the many fire pits, was a pop-up shop organized by Third + Bird showcasing local businesses selling holiday gifts to festival-goers.

One of the businesses included local candle maker Prairie-girl Candles, run by Jennifer Cull.

Prairie-girl Candles owner, Jennifer Cull, awaits customers at the Third + Bird market on the first night of the Zoo Lights Festival./JONAS CORTEZ

Cull, 45, has been running Prairie-girl Candles for over three years. She said she was excited to be a part of the festival and couldn’t wait to experience it for herself.

Vandenbergs Lovers Lane, one of the most eye-catching displays at the festival, features an LED sign reading the word “love.” Couples and families lined up to get their photos taken in front of it.

A couple stands underneath the sign in front of Vandenbergs Lovers Lane./JONAS CORTEZ

The festival operates with the help of its many volunteers.

“Our volunteers screwed in over a million lightbulbs,” said Hannah. “There might be 1.5 million in lightbulbs.”

The festival also includes different entertainers and experiences every night to cater to guests of all ages.

The Zoo Lights Festival runs from Nov. 30, 2019, to Jan. 5, 2020, and costs $15 for adults. Children under the age of two can enter for free.